The making of drug policy in the George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton Administrations
Moses, Margaret Catherine
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The current U.S. drug policy, which emphasizes supply control programs to reduce the flow of drugs, is widely perceived to be a failed policy. The question this dissertation addresses is why there has been no shift away from the strategy of supply control toward demand reduction initiatives like treatment and prevention. This study focuses on the policymaking process during the George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton Administrations and on how the interactions of agencies and actors have resulted in the perpetuation of a failed policy. The rational actor, organizational behavior, and governmental politics models are applied to data found in government documents and media reports to analyze the policy process and ascertain what drives the continued emphasis on supply control. The rational actor model presents almost no explanation of the continuation of the current policy, particularly as interdiction and eradication programs cost billions of dollars yet yield no impact on the availability and use of drugs. The organizational behavior model illustrates the ongoing weakness of the institutions dedicated to demand reduction. This is one factor that helps perpetuate the current policy, as the institutions may not have the capacity to carry out a national policy that focuses on demand reduction. Of the three models, the governmental politics model, which allows for the interaction of the various actors in the policy process, is the most revealing. The model points to Congress as the single most important actor in the drug policy process. As the key player in the making of drug policy, Congress maintains a strong emphasis on supply control programs in counter-narcotics policy. Partisan politics, budget inertia, and the reelection necessity of appearing to be tough on drugs are reasons underlying Congress’ position. In addition, the weakness of the treatment and prevention organizations provides Congress with little incentive to shift funding or emphasis toward reducing demand for drugs. This study concludes that Congress perpetuates the U.S. focus on supply-side programs, and that the weakness of the demand reduction institutions complicates any shift in federal policy.